Oakland Athletics – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-06-06T02:40:39Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Athletics To Pay Minor Leaguers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198444 2020-06-05T23:25:42Z 2020-06-05T23:25:42Z The Athletics decided last week that they wouldn’t pay their minor league players their $400 weekly stipend as of June 1. Oakland was the only club to make that choice, and it naturally didn’t go over well. Now, in the wake of the vast criticism they’ve received, the A’s are doing a 180. Owner John Fisher told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday that not only will the A’s pay their minor leaguers for the first week of June, but they’ll continue to receive weekly pay through the end of the scheduled minor league season.

“I’ve listened to our fans and others, and there is no question that this is the right thing to do,” Fisher said to Slusser. “We clearly got this decision wrong. These players represent our future and we will immediately begin paying our minor-league players. I take responsibility and I’m making it right.”

Additionally, while many major league teams have been releasing droves of minor leaguers, Fisher informed Slusser that the A’s have not discussed doing so. The club will also set up an emergency assistance fund for the employees it has furloughed, Slusser reports. The A’s recently furloughed more than half of their employees through the end of October, but Fisher credited those individuals for their loyalty and added, “It felt like the right thing to do was to set up a fund to support them.”

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Quick Hits: A’s, Phillies, Yankees, Mets]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198372 2020-06-04T02:11:18Z 2020-06-04T02:11:18Z Checking in on a few MLB teams…

  • Athletics owner John J. Fisher made the widely panned decision last week to stop paying minor leaguers at the end of May. Industry sources told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle they’re of the belief that “the front office was tremendously disappointed” in A’s ownership’s call. It’s a choice that Slusser notes could have a negative effect on the A’s after next week’s five-round draft, as various minor leaguers and agents told Slusser the A’s would not be their No. 1 choice. However, as Slusser writes, Oakland still has a chance to land talent if it’s willing to pay enough, and if it presents the best opportunity to the player.
  • With no season underway yet, the Phillies are in cost-cutting mode. Owner John Middleton told full-time employees in an email Monday that the team’s projecting losses of “substantially more than $100 million” in 2020, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. As a result, anyone in the team’s business department who’s on a $90K salary or above must take a pay cut. The Phillies will continue to provide health insurance, pension and 401(k) benefits to their full-time staff. However, because there may not be fans in the stands this year, the team’s facing “an enormous financial challenge” according to Middleton, who wrote that “approximately 40% of our total annual revenue is generated by attendance — tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking and sponsorships.” Of course, the lack of fans is one of the reasons the owners have pushed for a far smaller schedule this year. They and the players have not been on the same wavelength in negotiations, though.
  • Teams are expected to have a few extra rosters if there is a season in 2020. Between that and likely a lack of a minor league campaign, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News has been profiling Yankees pitching prospects who could get to the majors sooner than expected this year. Right-handers Deivi Garcia (link) and Clarke Schmidt (link) are among them. Garcia (No. 3) ranks a bit below Schmidt (No. 2) on Baseball America’s list of Yankees farmhands, and the scouts Ackert spoke with are optimistic they’ll turn into capable major league contributors.
  • The Mets have reopened their spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to players for the first time since late March, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com writes. Four to six players, including catcher Wilson Ramos, have resumed training at the facility. It’s an encouraging sign that they’re getting back to work, though DiComo points out that the players must follow “MLB, CDC, and local and state safety protocols.”
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest News, Notes On Minor League Pay]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198068 2020-05-29T21:36:05Z 2020-05-29T15:57:39Z The manner in which teams are — or, in some cases, aren’t — continuing to pay their minor league players has drawn increased attention as the end of the month draws near. Major League teams agreed back in March to pay minor league players $400 per week through the end of May, but most minor league players now face ongoing financial uncertainty. The Dodgers have already committed to continue that $400 weekly stipend through the end of June, but veteran left-hander David Price is stepping up to add a helping hand, pledging $1,000 to each non-40-man Dodgers minor leaguer, according to a report from Francys Romero (Twitter link). That includes more than 220 minor leaguers, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. It’s a similar gesture to the one Shin-Shoo Choo made with the Rangers back in April.

Of course, the very fact that veterans such as Choo and Price even feel it necessary to step up to help out minor leaguers speaks to the manner in which minor league players are under-compensated. While some clubs — the Marlins and Padres — are reportedly set to pay out that $400 weekly stipend through the end of the minor league season, the Athletics are cutting off the stipend at month’s end. Others have extended the stipend through June but have not committed further.

Here’s how a few other clubs are handling the matter…

  • The Mets, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants and Indians are all extending the $400 weekly stipend through the month of June, per reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (tweet), the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak (tweet), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (tweet) and Kyle Glaser of Baseball America (tweet). “This money right now, especially for guys who aren’t as well off, this is a huge deal,” Rays minor league catcher Chris Betts tells Topkin. “…I’m beyond excited about it, and I’m honestly just more stoked and proud that the organization I play for took this route more than anything.”
  • The Athletics have, unsurprisingly, drawn a wide array of harsh criticism for their wide-ranging furlough and the full cutoff of minor league payment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Slusser notes that owner John Fisher repeatedly used the word “family” in his letter to fans explaining the cutbacks, but many impacted by the cuts don’t feel the effects of that word. “It’s very hard to preach family and then not act like it when times are difficult,” Class-A pitcher Aiden McIntyre tells Slusser. Triple-A outfielder Jason Krizan added: “…[I]t hurts to see the Marlins continue to pay their players when they made the least in baseball last year,” though he noted he’d rather remain an Athletic and receive benefits than otherwise. Other players, past and present, voiced similar criticisms to Slusser, as did a big league agent and an executive with another club. Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein writes that termination of the stipend saves the Athletics an approximate $1.3MM.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Furloughs, Pay Cuts Among MLB Clubs]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197945 2020-05-28T00:08:21Z 2020-05-27T23:09:46Z 6:09pm: The Rangers have committed to $400 a week for their minor leaguers through at least June, Levi Weaver of The Athletic was among those to report. The same goes for the Braves, per David O’Brien of The Athletic, as well as the Diamondbacks, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds.

12:59pm: The Padres will also pay their minor leaguers the $400 weekly stipend through the end of August, Dennis Lin of The Athletic tweets.

12:34pm: Most of MLB’s 30 organizations agreed a ways back to pay their employees through the end of May. There were instances of lengthier commitments, but May 31 was broadly used as an initial endpoint, at which time fiscal matters would be reassessed. Minor league players have been receiving $400 weekly stipends during this time, but that arrangement is also only promised through the end of May. As you’d expect, clubs have begun to inform employees (both on the business and baseball operations side) and minor leaguers of their next steps. And, as you’d expect, in some instances it’s not pretty.

Yesterday was a particularly dark day in the Athletics organization, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the team informed minor league players they will no longer be paid their stipend as of June 1. Robert Murray of The Score shares the email that was sent to Oakland minor leaguers — one which was signed by GM David Forst rather than managing partner John J. Fisher. (Forst, of course, is being asked to play the messenger in this instance and is not the one making the decisions.)

Minor league players are generally undercompensated as a whole, and the $400 weekly stipend they’ve received over the past two months will now seemingly go down as the only baseball-related compensation they’ll receive in the calendar year. Their contracts, which are in a state of suspension but not terminated, bar them from “perform[ing] services for any other Club” and also render them ineligible for unemployment benefits, per The Athletic’s Emily Waldon (Twitter link).

As for the operations side of the equation, Athletics front office personnel will be either furloughed or see their pay reduced effective June 1 and running through the end of October, The Athletic’s Alex Coffey reports (Twitter thread). She adds that the maximum cut is 33 percent, and those determinations are based on seniority. Scouts aren’t considered front-office personnel, but they’ll be hit hard as well; USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that A’s amateur and pro scouts alike will be furloughed from June 16 through Oct. 31. Fisher did write a letter to the club’s fanbase confirming the dramatic cuts (Twitter link via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser), emphasizing the pain that went into the decisions and his “deep commitment to the long-term future of the A’s.”

Those cutbacks are similar to the substantial cuts the Angels put in place earlier this month, but other L.A. club isn’t taking such rash measures. The Dodgers have informed all employees earning more than $75K that they’ll be subject to pay reductions beginning June 1, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter thread). The extent of the reductions is dependent on overall salary — larger salaries get larger percentage cuts — and will be capped at 35 percent for the most part, although that they could be greater for the team’s very top executives. Those measures are being taken in an effort to avoid the type of large-scale furloughs being put in place in Oakland and Anaheim.

Across the country, the Nationals have implemented a series of partial furloughs both in baseball ops and business ops, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports (Twitter thread). The Nats are still covering full benefits and haven’t made any layoffs, but they’re implementing a sequence of 10 to 30 percent reductions in pay and total hours. The Brewers, meanwhile aren’t making any baseball ops furloughs but are furloughing some business operation employees, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets.

It’s not yet clear how every organization plans to handle the minor league pay dilemma, but Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser has heard from at least three clubs that plan to continue varying levels of compensation. The Phillies will keep paying their minor leaguers through at least June, but likely at less than the current $400 stipend. The White Sox are paying $400 per week through the end of June, and the Marlins have committed to paying their minor leaguers the full $400 per week through August — the would-be conclusion of the 2020 minor league season. The Marlins already informed players earlier this month that about 40 percent of the baseball ops department will be furloughed on June 1.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Daniel Mengden “About 95 Percent” After February Elbow Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197822 2020-05-26T13:56:56Z 2020-05-26T13:56:56Z Athletics righty Daniel Mengden underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his elbow back in February, but the right-hander told Brodie Brazil of NBC Sports Bay Area over the weekend that he’s now at “about 95 percent” in his recovery process.

Notably, Mengden also revealed to Brazil that he had two other procedures over the offseason — both to address an undiagnosed intestinal issue that had plagued him late in the 2019 season. He’d dropped 25 pounds at one point and reported to camp a bit below his typical weight, not having quite built back up. It seems now that despite the trio of surgeries, he should be ready to go. The 27-year-old has been throwing all of his pitches in bullpen sessions.

With a shortened ramp-up to the season and expanded rosters, a stockpile of quality pitching depth will be paramount for any contending club. A healthy Mengden should prove important for the A’s in that regard. While he wasn’t expected to crack the rotation barring injuries elsewhere — Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Chris Bassitt are all ahead on the depth chart — Mengden has functioned primarily as a starter in the big leagues. He’ll make a nice multi-inning piece for the A’s and could potentially make some spot starts, depending on what scheduling tactics the league utilizes to shoehorn as many games as possible into a narrowed schedule.

Mengden certainly isn’t a household name, but he’s quietly been a solid member of the Oakland staff in recent years. Dating back to 2017, the mustachioed right-hander has racked up 218 1/3 innings of 4.08 ERA ball with 5.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9 and a 38.8 percent ground-ball rate. In a way, he’s the type of player who can find a silver lining amid the prolonged stoppage of play. In addition to the added recovery time, Mengden likely now has roster certainty that wasn’t present when players reported to camp. He’s out of minor league options, so under normal circumstances, he’d have had to win a spot in an already-deep Athletics bullpen or else be exposed to waivers.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[10-Year-Old A’s Trade Paying Dividends]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197661 2020-05-23T06:10:02Z 2020-05-23T03:07:09Z If you followed Major League Baseball for most of the this century, you probably remember David DeJesus. The now-retired outfielder posted a solid career as part of a few different teams from 2003-15, during which he amassed 25.5 fWAR. DeJesus spent one of his seasons in Oakland, and though he didn’t have a banner year then, the franchise is still benefiting from his acquisition – one that could pay dividends for at least a few more years.

Back in November 2010, DeJesus was coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career. Although he only played in 91 games that year with the Royals, DeJesus batted .318/.384/.443 (127 wRC+) with 2.5 fWAR. However, after spending the first eight seasons of his career in Kansas City, the non-contenders traded him and his $6MM salary to Oakland for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. The Royals received little to no value from either of those players, though. Mazzaro threw 72 1/3 innings of 6.72 ERA ball in their uniform, and the Royals dealt him to the Pirates after that. Marks tossed just two frames in KC (both in 2014) and was out of the organization after that.

Oakland made out far better, though it took some time for that to become the case. Both the team and DeJesus underwhelmed in 2011, in which the A’s went 74-88 and DeJesus saw his line plummet to .240/.323/.376 (96 wRC+) with 1.7 fWAR over 506 trips to the plate. DeJesus became a free agent after that, and the A’s let him leave for the Cubs on a two-year, $10MM contract (fun fact: He was president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s first free-agent signing in Chicago). So the trade was close to a wash for the A’s, right? Not quite.

As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes wrote when DeJesus joined the Cubs, “DeJesus was offered arbitration by the A’s last week, so they’ll receive a supplemental draft pick in 2012 for their loss.”

This is where it gets good for the Athletics. With selection No. 47, the one the club received for DeJesus, it chose a Georgia-born high school first baseman named Matt Olson.

“The A’s see Olson as a future middle-of-the-order hitter,” Baseball America wrote at the time. And though Olson was long a well-regarded part of the A’s system, he was never a premium prospect across the league. Now, though, he’s one of the most valuable players on the A’s and among the most well-rounded first basemen in the sport.

After a run as a productive minor leaguer, Olson made it to Oakland in 2016, though he struggled over a mere 26 plate appearances. The next season, however, Olson turned into a monster at the MLB level. The lefty swinger racked up 216 PA and slashed .259/.352/.651 (164 wRC+) with 24 home runs. To this point, that has been Olson’s lone elite showing as a hitter, but that’s not to say he hasn’t been easily above average since then. Dating back to 2018, Olson has slashed .256/.342/.495 (126 wRC+) with 65 homers over 1,207 PA. Those numbers, not to mention his all-world defense, helped him post 7.3 fWAR during the previous two seasons.

Among all major leaguers dating back to 2018, Olson ranks seventh in Ultimate Zone Rating (18.1) and eighth in Defensive Runs Saved (31). One of the few better defenders than Olson has been teammate and third baseman Matt Chapman. He and Olson comprise one of the premier corner infield tandems in the game, and they’ve done it at affordable prices for low-budget Oakland. That’s going to start changing soon – b0th players will enter arbitration for the first of three potential trips next winter. Whether the A’s will be able to keep either around beyond their arb years remains to be seen, but there’s no denying they’ve already gotten excellent value from the two. In Olson’s case, it all began with a trade that didn’t bring potentially strong returns in the beginning.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Athletics Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197508 2020-05-20T20:53:12Z 2020-05-20T23:30:53Z In a few weeks, we’ll be running a two-team mock expansion draft here at MLBTR.  Currently, we’re creating 15-player protected lists for each of the existing 30 teams.  You can catch up on the rules for player eligibility here.

So far, we’ve done the AngelsAstrosTwinsRoyalsTigersIndiansWhite SoxRaysYankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles.  The Athletics are next.

First, we’ll remove free agents Marcus Semien, Joakim Soria, Yusmeiro Petit, Khris Davis, Mike Fiers, Liam Hendriks, T.J. McFarland, and Robbie Grossman from consideration.

Then, we’ll lock down this group of nine players:

Matt Chapman
Matt Olson
Frankie Montas
Ramon Laureano
Mark Canha
Sean Manaea
Sean Murphy
Jesus Luzardo
A.J. Puk

That leaves six spots for these 17 players:

Austin Allen
Luis Barrera
Franklin Barreto
Chris Bassitt
Paul Blackburn
Skye Bolt
Seth Brown
Jake Diekman
Daniel Gossett
Tony Kemp
Daniel Mengden
Sheldon Neuse
Chad Pinder
Stephen Piscotty
Burch Smith
Lou Trivino
J.B. Wendelken

With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below (direct link here), select exactly six players you think the Athletics should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft. Click here to view the results.

Create your own user feedback survey

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Oakland’s Meager Return For A Superstar]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197401 2020-05-19T10:15:02Z 2020-05-19T06:00:53Z One of the highest-profile trades of the previous decade saw the Athletics send third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for a four-player package consisting of infielders Brett Lawrie and Franklin Barreto, right-hander Kendall Graveman and lefty Sean Nolin in November 2014. The return at the time seemed underwhelming for an Oakland team that was then coming off its third consecutive playoff berth. Donaldson was highly instrumental in the team’s success in two of those last three seasons – he combined for 13.0 fWAR from 2013-14 – and he wasn’t due to reach free agency until after 2017. Even a low-budget club like the A’s should have been able to keep Donaldson in the fold for at least a little while longer, but they decided against it, to their detriment.

Donaldson, whom many now know as the “Bringer of Rain,” saw his star continue to rise in Toronto. He played for the Jays from 2015-18, during which he slashed .281/.383/.548 (150 wRC+) with 118 home runs and 22.2 fWAR. There were few better major leaguers during that stretch than Donaldson, who took home the AL MVP in 2015 – the first of two straight seasons in which Toronto went to the ALCS. Meanwhile, the A’s won fewer than 70 games in those two years and endured another sub-.500 campaign in 2017 before finally returning to relevance the next season. Oakland has since found its answer at third in the great Matt Chapman.

Despite Chapman’s emergence, has the Donaldson trade been worth it from the A’s standpoint? It doesn’t look like it.

The players Oakland got for Donaldson have combined for 3.8 fWAR in their uniform. Lawrie, once a seemingly can’t-miss prospect, spent one underwhelming season as an Athletic before they traded him to the White Sox in December 2015. Barreto was also considered a superb prospect in his younger days, but the now-24-year-old has done nothing in the majors so far. Graveman was useful with the A’s from 2015-18, during which he turned in 441 1/3 innings of 4.38 ERA ball, but was never more than a back-end starter with the team. He’s now a member of the division-rival Mariners. And Nolin, who only pitched for Oakland during a 2015 season in which he registered a 5.29 ERA over 29 innings, is now with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball.

As of now, it seems fair to call the Donaldson return an enormous disappointment for the Billy Beane-led A’s, who typically know what they’re doing. If there’s one potential silver lining, though, it’s J.B. Wendelken. The righty reliever joined the A’s in a trade with the White Sox for Lawrie in December 2015, and has since turned into a solid reliever. Going back to 2018, Wendelken has logged a 2.55 ERA/3.01 FIP with 8.76 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 in 49 1/3 innings. Among 523 pitchers whom hitters amassed at least 100 plate appearances against last year, he ranked sixth in expected weighted on-base average (.234), placing him a couple points behind the excellent Josh Hader.

Wendelken hasn’t racked up a large amount of major league experience yet, but if the A’s are going to get anything from deciding to deal Donaldson, he may be their best hope. For the most part, barring a eureka moment for Barreto, the return that Oakland originally received is a lost cause. Donaldson’s still humming along, though. He was good enough as a Blue Jay and then an Indian for the Braves to sign him to a $23MM guarantee going into 2019, and he was so effective in Atlanta last season that Minnesota gave him a four-year, $92MM guarantee over the winter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[How The Athletics Acquired A Cornerstone From A Division Rival]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197085 2020-05-14T03:50:03Z 2020-05-14T02:45:37Z Apparently the Astros didn’t know everything that was coming in 2017. Their Nov. 20 trade with the Athletics netted them right-hander Brandon Bailey … in exchange for budding outfield star Ramon Laureano.

Ramon Laureano | Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

At the time of the swap, it barely drew notice. It certainly didn’t seem like any sort of egregious misstep. Laureano had turned in a woeful .227/.298/.369 slash in Double-A that year. He connected on 11 home runs and swiped 24 bags, showing a bit of pop and some speed, but his walk rate was cut in half from its 2016 mark. Scouting reports praised his glovework, but the Astros apparently didn’t think his defense was as good as it’s proven to be. Former GM Jeff Luhnow admitted to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle last April that the Astros didn’t “quite [have] the defense rated as well as it’s played in the big leagues,” plainly calling the trade “one I’d love to have back.”

Laureano’s glove in 2019 didn’t play out quite as well as it did in 2018 — at least not in the estimation of most metrics. In just 385 innings in 2018, he logged +6 Defensive Runs Saved, a 3.7 Ultimate Zone Rating and +2 Outs Above Average. Those numbers dipped to +3, +0.7 and -5, respectively, in 1041 innings between center field and right field this past season. Even as his overall numbers might’ve taken a step back, Laureano showed off a cannon from both center and right. In 1426 innings at the MLB level, he’s racked up 17 assists — earning every bit of his “Laser Ramon” nickname.

As for his work at the plate, Laureano’s 2019 output matched his standout showing from his 2018 debut. Over the life of 481 plate appearances, he turned in a .288/.340/.521 batting line with 24 long balls and 13 stolen bases (in 15 attempts). That was good for a 126 wRC+ that lined up nicely with the 130 mark he posted as a rookie in 2018.

Overall, Laureano has appeared in 171 MLB games and taken 687 plate appearances — just over a full regular season’s worth of work. Between his outrageous arm, solid all-around defense, well-regarded baserunning ability and his strong work at the plate, he’s been worth 6.0 fWAR and 5.9 bWAR. That trade, considering the club control (through 2024) and low cost of acquisition, stands out as one of the best moves in recent memory for A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, GM David Forst and the rest of the Oakland staff.

Speaking of that cost of acquisition, it’s worth taking a look at what the Astros did get. The now-25-year-old Bailey is still a prospect of some note — albeit one that the ’Stros almost lost for nothing. Houston opted to leave Bailey unprotected in December’s Rule 5 Draft, and the Orioles (headed up by former Astros assistant GM Mike Elias) snagged him with the second overall pick. Baltimore since returned him, but that selection speaks to Bailey’s ability in and of itself.

Last year, the right-hander logged a 3.30 ERA in a pitcher-friendly Double-A setting, averaging an even 10 strikeouts against 3.98 walks per nine innings pitched. He’s not an elite prospect, but Eric Longenhagen ranked him 30th among Houston farmhands at FanGraphs this winter, labeling him as a potential reliever with a “robust” arsenal. Clearly though, even if Bailey meets or exceeds that ceiling, he has a long way to go before making the Laureano swap look like anything less than a heist.

So, why did Houston move Laureano in the first place? The trade took place just prior to the deadline to set 40-man rosters in advance of the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, and the Astros weren’t set on adding Laureano after his aforementioned down year in Double-A. It’s a mistake that every club has made in some shape or form, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s not really fair to look back and make harsh judgments with the benefit of hindsight. That said, Astros decisionmakers have to cringe when they look back at the players they chose to preserve over Laureano.

The Astros themselves actually kept a 40-man roster spot open, which they used to select outfielder-turned-left-hander Anthony Gose from the Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft. Gose never pitched for Houston and wound up back with the Rangers. Preston Tucker was already on the 40-man roster but had posted a 102 wRC+ in Triple-A in 2017 without appearing in a big league game. He was designated for assignment less than a month after trading Laureano (clearing a roster spot for Hector Rondon). Houston also dedicated a 40-man roster spot to backup catcher Juan Centeno, whom they claimed off waivers a few days after trading Laureano.

As for players actually selected to the 40-man roster in protection from the Rule 5 Draft, Houston added lefty Cionel Perez and righty Dean Deetz. The former is still with the team but has yet to establish himself as a regular member of the pitching staff. The latter was hit with an 80-game PED suspension later that offseason and outrighted off the 40-man roster earlier this winter. He’s pitched 3 1/3 innings in the Majors.

Both Perez and Deetz were more highly regarded prospect at the time, and no one was labeling the Laureano deal any sort of heist or steal for the A’s. The purpose here isn’t to look back and say, “How could the Astros have possibly done this?!” but rather to give a tip of the cap to a savvy acquisition from the A’s that has not only greatly boosted their own long-term outlook but done so at the expense of a division powerhouse.

Oakland, after all, has Laureano penciled in as its center fielder for the next half decade and figures to reap enormous surplus value from his remaining pre-arb years and early arbitration seasons. For a low-payroll club, that’s all the more valuable. The Astros, meanwhile, are set to lose their entire outfield to free agency this winter. Vaunted prospect Kyle Tucker gives them one likely replacement, but it must be particularly difficult to see another would-be outfield cornerstone thriving with their closest competitor for AL West supremacy.

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Anthony Franco <![CDATA[The A’s Draft Gamble That Paid Off]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196866 2020-05-10T16:50:02Z 2020-05-10T14:34:46Z The A’s have built a pair of reigning playoff teams, a much-welcome return to relevancy after three consecutive last place finishes from 2015-17. Recently, they’ve been anchored by a perhaps still-underrated superstar. Over the past two seasons, Matt Chapman has hit .263/.348/.507 (131 wRC+) with 60 home runs in 1286 plate appearances. More notably, he’s proven himself a wizard at third base, racking up an absurd 68 defensive runs saved. With his achievements on both sides of the ball, Chapman has been worth 12.8 fWAR/16.6 bWAR in the last two seasons alone. Baseball Reference’s value metric places him as the third-most valuable position player in that time (behind only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts). Fangraphs slots him sixth, with Alex BregmanChristian Yelich and Anthony Rendon joining Trout and Betts in the top five.

Regardless of where specifically one would slot Chapman among the game’s best players, it’s apparent he’s at least in the conversation. Given the player he’s become, it’d be easy to assume he was seen as a ’can’t-miss’ talent dating back to his amateur days. That’s not really the case. He was the A’s first-round pick back in 2014, 25th overall. At the time, though, that pick could’ve been considered a bit of a reach, at least in comparison to public rankings.

Neither Baseball America nor MLB Pipeline had Chapman in their top 50 prospects pre-draft (BA slotted him 64th, while Pipeline placed him 82nd). Nor did he crack the top 30 of then-ESPN analysts Keith Law and Christopher Crawford the fall prior. That’s not meant to be a criticism of draft prognosticators. Despite his frame, Chapman never showed much power in games as an amateur. He hit a cumulative 13 home runs over his three years at Cal State Fullerton. It’s hardly surprising evaluators didn’t see a future 36-homer bat in the big leagues.

Questions about Chapman’s hitting prowess were prevalent enough that both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline pointed to pitching as a potential fallback. The elite arm strength he now shows off at the hot corner in Oakland helped him touch 98 MPH on the mound in college. While the consensus was that Chapman should be a given a shot in pro ball at third, where reviews on him defensively were always positive, it wasn’t hard to imagine him flaming out and moving to the mound someday.

To the A’s credit, they never seemed to budge on their evaluation of him as a hitter. Asked about a potential mound conversion for Chapman after the draft, A’s scouting director Eric Kubota shot down the idea to Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group. “He’s got a chance to be an elite defender at third base,” Kubota told Durkin. “He can really throw. We think his bat is ever-improving. We think there’s untapped power there. We think this is a guy who is going to develop into a power hitter.

Kubota’s words look awfully prescient in hindsight. Obviously, the organization’s belief in Chapman wasn’t shared throughout the league. There’s no chance he’d have fallen to pick 25 if it were. If teams were to redraft the 2014 class today, Chapman would no doubt be at the top of most teams’ boards. His emergence is a credit to the A’s scouting and player development staffs (and a testament to Chapman himself), an example of the ideal progression teams dream of when they bring a talented player into the system. It’s also a reminder that teams’ evaluations of draft prospects can vary, sometimes to their immense success.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Remembering An Athletics One-Hit Wonder]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196527 2020-05-05T00:32:01Z 2020-05-05T00:32:01Z It was 16 years ago that the Athletics traded away a successful homegrown talent in left-hander Mark Mulder, whom they sent to the Cardinals in exchange for righties Dan Haren and Kiko Calero and first baseman Daric Barton. Mulder was a former No. 2 overall pick (1998) who, along with Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, helped comprise the feared Big Three in Oakland’s rotation. While Mulder pitched to a 3.92 ERA as an Athletic and racked up almost twice as many wins (81) as losses (42) in their uniform, he struggled down the stretch in 2004, thereby sealing his fate with the club.

Although Mulder had a nice first season in St. Louis, injuries played a part in torpedoing his career from there, as he only threw 106 innings of 7.73 ERA ball from 2006-08. In hindsight, it wasn’t a great trade for the Cardinals, but the A’s did get serious value out of it. Haren turned in three highly productive seasons in Oakland before the team flipped him to Arizona in a major 2007 deal, while Calero enjoyed two impressive years out four with the club. By measure of fWAR, though, neither Haren nor Calero matched Barton’s top season as a member of the team. When comparing his best season with the rest of his career, Barton’s one of baseball’s clearest examples of a one-hit wonder from the previous decade.

It’s worth noting that Barton was actually one of the premier prospects in baseball during his days on the farm – Baseball America ranked him between 32nd and 67th four years running. As BA wrote before the 2007 season: “Oakland general manager Billy Beane called Barton the best hitter in the minors when he traded for him, and he remains the system’s best pure hitter. He has a textbook swing, fluid and short with a bit of loft, hinting at future power. His exceptional plate discipline allowed him to control the strike zone at Triple-A as a 20-year-old, and he’s advanced enough to know to use the whole field.”

Barton seemed on his way to proving his supporters correct, albeit over just 84 plate appearances, as he debuted in Oakland and batted a marvelous .347/.429/.639 (181 wRC+) with four home runs. But it took until 2010 for Barton to truly produce like a star over a full season. While Barton only mustered 10 homers in 686 PA and 159 games that year, he nonetheless totaled 5.0 fWAR, tying him with a couple familiar names in then-Phillie Jayson Werth and perennial Cardinal Yadier Molina. Barton got there on the strength of his exceptional eye and his strong defense. The lefty swinger posted the game’s eighth-highest on-base percentage and an overall line of .273/.393/.405 (126 wRC+), and he ranked among the sport’s top-graded fielders with 19 Defensive Runs Saved and an Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8.

Oakland looked as if it had its long-term answer at first then, but it was all downhill from there. Barton’s numbers took a turn for the worse the next season and he was never a big league regular again. He continued to draw walks at a high clip, but the powerless Barton limped to a line of .216/.323/.284 (76 wRC+) with a mere four HRs and 0.1 fWAR during a 600-PA span over the rest of his time in the majors. The A’s even designated Barton for assignment in 2013, though he did stick with the organization into the next season. Barton hasn’t been heard from in the majors since then, though, and until today, he hadn’t been mentioned on MLBTR’s pages since the Blue Jays’ Triple-A club released him in July 2015.

Barton did play in Mexico for a few seasons after his run in MLB and Triple-A ended, but the 34-year-old’s now out of baseball. That surely wasn’t the way he or the A’s expected his career to conclude in the wake of his magical 2010 effort, but thanks to that one huge year, he had a more productive MLB career than most who appear in the league.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Former A's Minor Leaguer Passes Away Of COVID-19]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196414 2020-05-02T04:24:31Z 2020-05-02T04:24:31Z
  • Former Athletics minor leaguer Miguel Marte has passed away of COVID-19 at the age of 30, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Marte, a catcher/first baseman from the Dominican Republic, played in the A’s system from 2008-12. He left behind a wife and two children. If you’re interested in helping them, a GoFundMe page has been set up.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[10 MLB Teams Whose Business Initiatives Face Coronavirus Hurdles]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196402 2020-05-02T03:35:02Z 2020-05-02T02:34:53Z Like most every person or business, all thirty MLB teams face tough questions during the time of COVID-19. Some are relatively similar for all ballclubs, but there are obviously quite a few unique issues — some more pressing than others.

    Dealing with the implications of this pandemic is probably toughest for organizations that are in the midst of executing or planning major business initiatives. We’ll run down some of those here.

    Angels: The team has been cooking up potentially massive plans to develop the area around Angel Stadium. Fortunately, nothing is really in process at the moment, but it stands to reason that the project could end up being reduced in scope and/or delayed.

    Athletics: Oof. The A’s have done a ton of work to put a highly ambitious stadium plan in motion. Massive uncertainty of this type can’t help. It isn’t clear just yet how the effort will be impacted, but it seems reasonable to believe the organization is pondering some tough decisions.

    Braves: Luckily for the Atlanta-area organization, the team’s new park and most of the surrounding development is already fully operational. But with the added earning capacity from retail operations in a ballpark village comes greater exposure to turmoil.

    Cubs: Like the Braves, the Cubs have already done most of the work at and around their park, but were counting on big revenue to pay back what’s owed (and then some). Plus, the Cubbies have a new TV network to bring up to speed.

    Diamondbacks: Vegas?! Vancouver?! Probably not, but the Snakes do want to find a new home somewhere in Arizona. That effort is sure to be dented. Plus, the team’s recent initiative to host non-baseball events at Chase Field will now go on hiatus.

    Marlins: The new ownership group has had some good vibes going and hoped to convert some of the positivity into a healthy new TV deal. That critical negotiation will now take place in a brutal economic environment.

    Mets: So … this is probably not an optimal moment to be selling your sports franchise. The Wilpon family is pressing ahead with an effort to strike a new deal after their prior one broke down (at the worst possible time).

    Orioles: That bitter television rights fee dispute that just won’t stop … it’s not going to be easier to find a resolution with less cash coming through the door. It was already setting up to be a rough stretch for the Baltimore org, with past TV money due to the Nationals and more bills to come, even while going through brutally lean years on the playing field.

    Rangers: The new park is now built. While taxpayers footed much of the bill, the club still has to pay back a $600MM loan. Suffice to say the Rangers (and municipal authorities) anticipated game day revenues of more than $0 in year one when they planned out the loan repayment method.

    Rays: The club’s preferred Ybor City option flamed out and it is currently engaged in a somewhat confusing effort to split time between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. Existing hurdles to that arrangement seem only to be taller in the age of the coronavirus.

    Others: We may be missing some, but it seems most other organizations are engaged more in usual-course sorts of business initiatives rather than franchise-altering efforts. For instance, the Nats have an interest in that TV deal as well. The Red Sox have been working to redevelop areas around Fenway Park. The Blue Jays are dabbling in future plans. And the Dodgers have a new TV rights deal, though that came to fruition after the pandemic hit and may not be impacted any more than any other existing carriage arrangements.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On MLB Teams’ Cost-Cutting Efforts]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196224 2020-04-29T14:49:36Z 2020-04-29T14:21:28Z There’s a spreading optimism — or, at least, a spread of reporting about optimism — regarding the return of baseball in 2020. But the pandemic shutdown has already stung MLB teams and the near-term revenue prospects remain poor, even if a television-only campaign is launched.

    Unsurprisingly, even as teams prepare to refund fans for games that won’t be played as expected, we’re seeing enhanced efforts on the part of MLB organizations to cut costs. As Pirates GM Ben Cherington put it (via Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), “revenues aren’t coming in” but “cash is still going out.”

    The notoriously tight-fisted Bucs have enacted austerity policies. But sources tell Mackey that the team isn’t among those in the roughest shape financially around the game. The Pirates have stopped 401(k) contributions and suspended fellowship/internship programs while top-level leaders take reductions in pay. Cherington says “the full expectation is that [401(k)] contribution will go back into effect as soon as possible,” and emphasized that the hope was to “find some savings without too much impact on people and their everyday lives.”

    None of these sorts of measures are pleasant, but Pirates employees seem to be in better stead than those of the Rays. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the low-budget Tampa Bay outfit has become the first MLB organization “to implement aggressive expense cutting moves” — in particular, furloughing some full-time employees and cutting the pay of others that earn above a certain threshold.

    The Rays are covering health insurance for furloughed staff and the hope remains to bring many jobs back online. But the move reflects the stark realities of the sport in the era of COVID-19. Per Topkin, the top organizational leadership advised employees of concern that the revenue drag could continue for years to come.

    Like the Rays, the Athletics have been scrimping and saving while working through difficult new-ballpark negotiations and planning. With those efforts now confronted by an entirely new sort of hurdle, and the near-term revenue outlook plummeting, the Oakland club is considering cuts of its own, according to Ken Rosenthal and Alex Coffey of The Athletic (subscription link). The A’s may actually be contemplating something rather more aggressive than what the Rays just enacted. The Athletic reports that the Oakland org is “discussing extensive layoffs” and could ultimately carry a “significantly smaller staff on both the business and baseball sides.”

    Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also examines the A’s situation. Employees say they have no idea what to expect and the team hasn’t responded to requests for comment. It remains to be seen how the situation will be handled, but with every other team in the league having already charted a path, the silence is ominous. Slusser doesn’t offer a definitive prediction, but does warn: “don’t be surprised” if major cuts occur.

    These three teams may be pressed into action sooner than some peers, but the issues aren’t limited to lower-budget organizations. As Mackey writes in the above-linked post, and as we have covered in recent weeks, several other clubs have also pursued cost-reduction strategies that impact employees. And The Athletic reports that multiple teams around the league have had some level of internal discussion of major changes to their operations. At the moment, every team in baseball aside from the A’s and Rays has promised to retain full-time employees through the end of May. Hopefully, there’ll be sufficient clarity and optimism in the outlook at that point to avoid broader cuts.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Replacing An MVP-Contending Shortstop]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196201 2020-04-29T04:05:02Z 2020-04-29T03:00:51Z Because of the coronavirus, the Athletics are facing at least one very sad possibility: Shortstop Marcus Semien may never wear their uniform again. Whether or not any kind of season happens, Semien will be eligible to reach free agency next winter. He’ll be among the most coveted players available, and the low-budget Athletics have never been known for splurging on anyone. The largest guarantee they’ve ever given out still belongs to former third baseman Eric Chavez, whom they signed to a $66MM guarantee way back in 2004. And frankly, if any one player on the current A’s is going to exceed that amount sometime soon, third baseman Matt Chapman is probably a better candidate than Semien.

    Now, saying Oakland will probably prioritize Chapman isn’t a knock on Semien. But Semien’s a couple years older – his 30th birthday is in September, while Chapman just turned 27 today – and the A’s have less time to lock him up with a potential trip to free agency looming.

    Should Semien walk, he’d be an enormous loss for the club. Originally acquired from the White Sox in a 2014 trade, Semien has gradually evolved into an elite shortstop. He was a decent player for the A’s from 2015-18, a four-year, 2,311-plate appearance stretch in which he accumulated 9.1 fWAR, but was only a league-average hitter throughout.

    Semien truly turned a corner last season during a near-American League Most Valuable Player effort. He slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs and 10 stolen bases en route to 137 wRC+, the second-highest number among all full-time shortstops (only Boston’s Xander Bogaerts fared better). And while Semien’s work at short drew criticism in his younger days, 2019 represented his second straight resoundingly successful year as a defender. He put up 12 Defensive Runs Saved and managed a 6.7 Ultimate Zone Rating. The entire package was good for 7.6 fWAR, the fifth-highest amount in the majors and one that helped him to a third-place finish in AL MVP balloting behind Mike Trout and Alex Bregman.

    It’s just about impossible to immediately replace what Semien brought to the table last season, but Oakland may soon have to make the attempt. The question is: How? As mentioned, the A’s aren’t big spenders. That said, it doesn’t seem crazy to think they could at least make an effort on Andrelton Simmons or Didi Gregorius, the next best free-agent shortstops in the upcoming winter’s class, if they only command short-term contracts. The rest of the market should be decidedly less inspiring at the position, but Oakland could plug in someone like Freddy Galvis or Jose Iglesias as affordable stopgaps capable of offering roughly league-average WAR totals.  As for trades, would the A’s dare be aggressive enough to push their chips to the table for someone like Francisco Lindor of the Indians or the Rockies’ Trevor Story, free agents-to-be after 2021 who would surely be rentals for them?

    Alternatively, there’s the chance of adding a second baseman via trade or free agency and shifting an in-house player to short. The trouble is that the A’s, Semien aside, don’t have any proven shortstop options from within their ranks. Franklin Barreto was once a premium middle infield prospect, but he hasn’t panned out so far, and he didn’t play much short in the minors from 2017-19. Sheldon Neuse appeared in all of nine minor league games there last season. Jorge Mateo has quite a bit of minors experience in the spot, but he hasn’t inspired at the plate. Vimael Machin’s a Rule 5 pick, and seldom do they turn into valuable performers. Prospects like Nick Allen or Logan Davidson could eventually be the solution, though neither has even gotten to Double-A yet.

    Every team is in a difficult position as a result of the pandemic, but Oakland ranks near the top. The Athletics are a back-to-back 97-win team who, as constructed, could compete for a World Series championship. Semien’s an important part of that, though, and nobody knows whether he’ll play for the club again. But regardless of whether a season happens, the A’s may be mere months away from facing the unenviable task of trying to replace a player who has become a star in their uniform.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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